Heavy Rain Brings More Flood Risks

floods

Heavy rain and gale force winds are set to continue to batter large swathes of the south of Britain, leaving many areas at risk of further flooding.

The country will be hit by two new turbulent weather systems that are predicted to bring high winds and rain in their wake.

And there is fresh misery for people living in the Somerset Levels, where two severe flood warnings remain in place signifying a danger to life.

The Environment Agency said the first warning affects the Salt Moor and North Moor while the second is in place on the A361 between east Lyng and Burrowbridge, including the Somerset Levels Basket and craft Centre Area.

Many flood-hit homes on the Somerset levels have already been evacuated, and further rainfall raises the prospect of more residents having to leave their houses.

The Met Office warned that a fresh wave of heavy rain will hit southern England and Wales at around 6am today.

They said up to 1.6ins (40mm) of rain is being predicted to fall in the south coast, where many areas are already drenched from recent storms and floods.

Upland areas including Salisbury Plain, South Downs and North Downs are set to be the worst affected by the downpours, and the Met Office has issued an amber warning in these parts urging locals to “be prepared”.

A yellow warning for rain is in place across the rest of southern England and Wales meaning that people living in these areas should “be aware”.

And winds of up to 40mph are set to batter the south coast, potentially bringing dangerously high waves and wreaking fresh damage to these storm-hit areas.

A stretch of railway track in Dawlish, Devon has already been destroyed because of storms and experts are warning that further destruction could be on the way.

High winds are expected to lash the Channel tonight into tomorrow, potentially causing disruption to the popular ferry crossing route.

And there is little respite from the turbulent weather as, after a brief spell of sunshine tomorrow morning, fresh storms are set to hit.

A weather system developing off the Atlantic will sweep into Britain bringing up to 1.2 ins (30mm) of rain overnight tomorrow and into Saturday.

Severe gale force winds of up to 80mph are expected to hit southern Britain which could topple trees and cause more damage to the beleaguered region.

Met Office forecaster Kirk Waite said: “The real thing with the second system is the strength of the winds.

“Once the initial band of rain comes in you are going to see severe gales that could bring potential issues with a risk of trees falling.”

The warnings come as it is revealed that environment secretary Owen Paterson will not chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee today.

The minister, whose response to the flooding crisis has been criticised, is to have surgery for a detached retina in his eye.

It is understood that communities secretary Eric Pickles will stand in for him.

Fire crews in Devon and Somerset rescued 14 people from flood water overnight.

A specialist water rescue team was launched at 5.27pm yesterday to evacuate residents and pets in flood-hit Burrowbridge, Somerset.

Two fire appliances from Taunton were mobilised at 6.36pm to rescue two people in Thornfalcon who were on the bonnet of their car in flood water.

A spokesman for Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service said: “Crew donned dry suits and proceeded on foot with lighting to locate them. Two adult males were found and led to safety.

“Ambulance treated the men for the effects of cold.”

One fire appliance from Middlemoor and another from Danes Castle rescued a man from the roof of his van at Silverton Mill, Exeter, at 7.10pm.

At 11.32pm, crews from Taunton went to a property in Stoke St Gregory as the River Tone had burst its banks and flood water was entering the home.

“Crews donned dry suits and helped the owner to salvage property and assisted four adults and three children to leave property,” the spokesman said.

Fire crews helped the ambulance service to rescue a woman suffering from chest pain from flood water in Ruishton at 1.30am, as the ambulance could not reach her. Rescuers donned dry suits and used an inflatable boat and handed the patient to paramedics.

At 3.55am, the specialist water rescue team from Bridgwater attended a flooded property in Moorland, North Petherton, to help evacuate three adults, a dog and a budgie.

Crews from Bridgwater then assisted with pumping water from a property in Fordgate, North Petherton, at 5.24am.

” Crews used a light portable pump to supplement occupier’s pump,” the spokesman said. “The resident did not wish to be evacuated.”

Pete Fox from the Environment Agency said people face a “conveyor belt of storms”.

Regarding sea walls in Dawlish, Devon, he told BBC Breakfast about “the difficulty of dealing with a tidal situation where the tides are progressively coming in again and again”.

He said: “It really hampers efforts to repair. Our teams have been out in places like Helston, and further down the coast in Cornwall, overnight, doing work to try and repair and keep the water flowing, because we are facing this conveyor belt of storms coming to the south, south west of England.”

David Cameron defended Mr Paterson’s handling of the flooding crisis, insisting he was “absolutely on top” of the issue.

In an interview on BBC Manchester, the Prime Minister insisted that the Government had been “very proactive” in putting its emergency planning procedures into action as soon as the stormy weather hit.

When presenter Mike Sweeney questioned Mr Paterson’s decision to view flooding in Somerset “dressed for a ball at the Ritz, without his wellies”, Mr Cameron responded: “I completely disagree with what you said about Owen Paterson, who knows a lot about rural issues and the countryside. He sits for a rural seat. He is absolutely on top of those flooding issues.

“He went to visit the floods. He was not dressed as if he was going to the Ritz, he was dressed as if he was going to floods. He had a pair of wellies, but because he was harassed as soon as he got out of his car, he didn’t have a chance to put them on. He didn’t forget.

“Honestly, some of these things that get going on the media have to be challenged, because otherwise a lie is halfway around the world before the truth can get its boots on, and that’s a rather appropriate expression in these circumstances.”

The PM was critical of the Environment Agency’s decision to cut back on dredging rivers over the past two decades.

“The fact is, since the Environment Agency was founded in the late 1990s, it took a view – and increasingly other organisations took a view – that dredging wasn’t appropriate,” he said. “I think that’s wrong. I have a constituency that does flood frequently. I pushed for dredging and some dredging has taken place and it does make a difference.

“We’ve got to make sure that our system is focused on protecting people above all else, so some of the arguments against dredging have to be taken on and we need to start dredging again more systematically. The Environment Agency now accepts that.”

He added: “The scale of these weather events and the scale of the flooding has shifted even more something that was beginning to shift anyway. The Environment Agency had taken a very anti-dredging view for many years. That was beginning to change and now it’s changing faster, and that’s something I welcome.”

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